Monday, January 27, 2014

#12 Windy Days!!

This month has been full of very windy days.  Being the geek that I am, I have a weather station at my house.  I keep close track of the temperature's ups and downs and lately the wind.  We have had 3 days just within the last 10 days of over 50 mph winds, 2 over 40 mph, and 5 over 30 mph.  I really need for this to stop.  I always marvel at how the women in the plains going westward ho managed with all that wind ... all the time.  No thanks, not for me.

The real problem with the wind during the winter besides the obvious cold factor, is that since we have the north side of the chicken's pen tarped it acts like a giant parachute and it goes for a little ride.

And then, amazingly, the force of the whole when the wind is 50+ mph actually moves the coop too!

This is not good!  Last night the wind blew at 52 mph and moved the coop some more.  The girls are actually a little tilted now.  Their hanging feeder is no longer plumb to the floor.  Hmm.  I think we have decided that a more permanent measure needs to be taken.  Hopefully this Spring we can get a post drilled permanent enclosure built and solve this wintertime problem.

On the Rachel front ... well, she is still living in the barn.  I have no idea how to integrate her back into the flock without serious injury.  I don't know if we can anymore and if this is a permanent oops or not.  It's been 26 days now since she was separated.  She is doing well in her kennel and playpen setup.

I caught her taking a dust bath in her playpen today.  It's always very funny when they do that.

It's gotten colder again, but everyone is doing fine.  I think we are all hoping for an early and warm Spring.  The days are definitely getting longer now, so Spring can't be too far off, well okay, maybe a couple of months.  I can always hope.

Namaste and Aho!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

#11 Supervised Visitation

Poor Rachel has been separated from her flock now for how many days now?  Oh, right, 15.  I have determined that it must take a very long time for butt feathers to grow back in.  I can't seem to find any information on that subject; it all has to do with molting.  Well, they definitely did not molt; they had some outside help.  Everything I've read says either several weeks or not until after they molt.  So, in other words, a really long time.  Hmm.

Because it's been so cold and windy out lately I just cannot spend a great deal of time outside.  I have been wanting to put Rachel back with the flock with "supervised visits".  However, because of the weather, this has not been possible.  Last night, however, it was reasonably warm, 38 F, and I decided to let all the girls out to free range.

I brought Rachel out first and then opened the gate to the chicken pen.  Everything went pretty well at first.  For some reason Ebony got lost in the pen and couldn't find her way out.????  Raven and Rachel bumped chests a couple of times, but I broke it up and everything seemed okay.  That is until Ebony finally made it out and reintroduced herself.  It was bad.  She was really not happy with Rachel (do chickens hold a grudge? "You yanked my butt feathers out and now I'm going to kill you.")  Oh yes, she was out for the killing.  I really had to shove them apart.  As long as Ebony was not around, everything was fine.  Rachel did not even look at anyone's butt.  So now Ebony is the problem child.  What do I do??

 Rachel off by herself.  Poor Rachel.

All the others gathered around the chicken yard. (Chicken on the right is not Rachel)

Still no Rachel.

Ebony with her new denim Supergirl cape on.

Maybe that's what I need to do ... put a Supergirl cape on Rachel so Ebony can't get a mouth/beak full of feathers.  Oh well, today, Thursday, it's super windy with wind gusts up to 44 mph so far, so no, I will not be getting the girls together today.  Hopefully soon this will resolve and all will be peaceful in the Zen House once again.

Namaste and Aho!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#10 Enduring the Arctic Vortex

Things have been busy around the Zen House homestead.  Mom (me), was busy worrying about the babies.  The "Arctic Vortex" was at its worst here on Monday, January 6.  The low was -13 and we reached a high of -1.  I have read so many other blogs and posts of places with -22 and -40 degree air temperature.  Whew!  I honestly cannot even imagine.

Sunday night we brought our big space heater out for the dog kennels.  We swept away all hay and dust and set it on the rubber flooring of the aisle way and cranked it up on high.  That night got down to -4.

The next day, poor Buster, the dog, was just not happy.  He was sitting in his kennel shivering and looking very sad.  The barn is just too open for the space heater to be effective enough to generate that much heat.  So, I ended up bringing him into the house.  Now, that probably doesn't sound like a really big deal. But!  Let me tell you.  This dog has the most amazing ability to mark everything in sight within seconds.  He has to be in a kennel in the house or he will literally mark furniture, walls, toys, or anything else within a minute even while being held on a leash.  So, he took over Suzy's kennel.  Suzy didn't mind until bedtime and that stinky boy dog was still in her kennel.  She had to take one for the team that night.

Buster in Suzy's kennel.

As for the chickens, well, they did quite well. The Zen House girls had their heater on high and made out just fine.  Rachel, still in the barn, got a double heat lamp treatment.  I put a thermometer in her kennel and it said about 18 degrees.  She just snuggled underneath the lights and was great.  Max, the other barn dog, got his own heat lamp.  He appreciated it and was able to lay underneath it and keep warm.  The horses are fuzzy enough to stay warm on their own.  The cats were the last concern and they managed to share a bed and stay warm. I was probably most at risk for frost bite.  I was pretty sure my eyeballs were going to freeze just walking from the chicken coop to the house.  The wind was blowing pretty hard and, wow! was that cold.  Also, changing Rachel's water out is a no glove task.  I wear medical grade gloves which keeps my hands dry, but not particularly warm.  Taking the water bowl outside to dump and clean was so much fun!  The water from my hands would instantly freeze on the door handle.  She is a lucky little chicken to have a mommy that loves her so much.

Rachel with her 2 heat lamps staying toasty.

Max with the heat lamp above him and him under it.  Ahh, that's better.

3 of the barn cats in the bed.

Molly being tough and helping me in the barn.  Okay, she does have a little more insulation than everyone else.

It felt like a very long cold spell even though it really wasn't.  I am glad for that and that everyone made it through without any frost bite to combs, wattles, toes or ears.  It's still just the beginning of winter, but I really hope we don't have too many more Arctic Vortexes come our way!

Namaste and Aho!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

#9 Om

Rachel's new speaker came in today.  Wow, what a spoiled lucky chicken she is (okay, except for the fact that she is separated from her flock and locked in a dog kennel).  She now has her own meditation music for her meditative enjoyment.  I got her an Ivation Multi-Function Bicycle Speaker from Amazon.


Now she can listen to the Deepak Chopra Perfect Health Meditation music I bought.  I downloaded it to my iPod and can now play it through this new speaker.  It works great and it's small and versatile.

She has been so obsessed with pecking and picking since she has been in the kennel.  This was the first time I saw her stand still.  She cocked her head toward the music and really seemed to calm down.

She is now just quietly eating her food.  Who knew chickens would really like Chopra meditation music.  I know I was hoping she would.

It's difficult to see, but she is sitting on her perch.  This is the first time I have seen her do this.  Yeah!  She likes it!  Hopefully tomorrow will bring the same calming results.

I promised her sisters I would spend some time with them tomorrow; probably in their coop.  It's suppose to be 7 degrees tomorrow.  It is snowing tonight; no telling just how much we will get.  The rest of the Zen House girls did get outside during the day.  It may be a few days before that happens again.

Namaste and Aho

Friday, January 3, 2014

#8 Switch!

A couple of days ago Ivy got separated due to her bleeding backside.  Then Rachel got separated because she then turned her attention onto Ebony and started doing the same thing.  The first night went fine for both "separees".  Rachel was more notably ready to be out of her kennel than Ivy, but still, she was dealing with her confinement just fine.  Yesterday, Thursday, I decided that since Rachel was being separated, that maybe Ivy would be okay rejoining her sisters in the coop.  Her backside had healed enough that it wasn't bleeding anymore and it would be warmer for her in the coop; especially important for her exposed backside.  I put Ivy back in the coop and checked on her frequently for several hours.  Yep, everything was just fine.

Since I had displaced Buster the dog from his kennel to give to Rachel (he was not happy about his new sleeping arrangement), I switched Rachel over to the extra kennel I was using for Ivy.  In the process of all of this, however, I knew I needed a way to heat her water.  I went to Orschlen's and found a bird bath heater called The Rock to put in her water bowl.  It is heavy enough that when she stands on the edge of the bowl (or in it), it doesn't tip over and it doesn't get too hot.  Perfect!  Pricey, but perfect.  I also found a very cute small hanging feeder so feed isn't all over the kennel.  Now to put it all together.

This was her first setup.  She was constantly getting hay in her water and dumping feed out all over the place.

 Her new cute hanging feeder.  This one she just pecks the feed out and not fling.
Her water bowl with The Rock in the middle.  It sits on a piece of board.  She still kicks pine shavings into it, but not as much as before.  And, yes, shortly after is picture was taken she did poop in it.  Oh well, only so much you can do.


So now Rachel is the only chicken in the barn.  I'm pretty sure that dog Buster would really like to eat her (for real), so I am very sure to keep him away from her.  The cats have been mildly curious, but don't seem to see her as food.  I take her out of the kennel when I can and pet and cuddle her.  I'm afraid to let her go as she could end up in the rafters of the barn; she probably wouldn't, but my luck ...  I need one of those chicken diapers with the leash attachment.

Tomorrow she will get a special treat - her own personal music.  I purchased some great meditation music and a cute speaker system to play it.

Namaste and Aho

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

#7 Happy New Year! I Hope This Isn't a Sign of Things to Come

Yesterday Rachel decided it would be fun to pick all the feathers off of Ivy's butt.  I was hopeful that today she would decide she was done.  It seemed like all was fine to start out with.  I did not see any further damage to either Ivy or Ebony upon first inspection.  Oh, but wait, what is that on the poop board?  Why it's Ebony's purple saddle.  How did that get there?  And what else?  There really is no poop on the poop board.  Best guess is that somehow someone pulled it off Ebony, it fell off and scared the crap out of every chicken in the coop.  I have no idea where they slept the majority of the night.

They went outside just fine; nice and calm.  Ebony, of course, did not have her saddle on and I decided to wait and see how things fared.  Unfortunately, it did not take long before I saw Rachel pick at her back again and then again ... Okay, the saddle needs to go back on.  Apparently Ebony and I have gotten proficient at putting the saddle on now.  She did not fuss and I was quick.  She did not even pick at the elastic straps like she did yesterday.  How nice.  I spent some quality time in the coop with her cuddling her as she softly purred, bocked ... what sound do chickens make when they are quietly happy?

As I was leaving the coop, oh it was so much nicer in there than it was outside; about 11 degrees and breezy ... brrr.  Rachel and Ivy were perched on the supports under the coop.  Ivy's backside was to me and then I saw it; blood running down her butt.  Oh, so not good.  I went in the house to get the chicken diaper I had bought along with Ebony's saddle (yes there are diapers for chickens).  I watched a video to remember how to put it on; always a good thing to know before having said chicken in hand.

Back outside and time to gather up Ivy.  Oh good, most of the girls decided to go back in the coop.  Much easier to gather up a chicken in the coop.  However, as soon as I ever so gently laid the diaper down, all hell broke loose.  Okay, this was unexpected.  I got Ivy back; she was now on the roost after much wing flapping and bocking.  I held her close and stroked her to calm her.  As soon as I tried to slowly and gently put the strap over her head, she went ballistic.  She was so terrified.  So, I guess this isn't going to work.  My best guess is that Ebony's saddle coming off last night was the cause of the extreme fear shown for the diaper this morning.  Funny that Ebony did not care.

Plan B.  We knew we had to separate her to keep her safe.  I have an extra dog kennel in the barn that I actually used to brood them in last spring.  I cleaned it all out and added pine chips.  John came out and helped me transfer Ivy to the barn and her new temporary home.  There was a pretty good amount of blood running down the ladder by the time I got back out there.

She actually transferred very well out of the coop and into the barn.  I was surprised at how calm she remained.  We set her up with food and water and a heat lamp (it's supposed to get down to 0 degrees tonight and she doesn't have anyone to snuggle with).

So now we have Ivy separated and Ebony with her saddle on, everything should be just fine right?  I know you have guessed the answer already.  Now with Ivy no longer available to pick butt feathers out of, Ebony became the new target.  Yes, she now has a decent start on a bare naked butt too.  Fortunately, it's not as bad as Ivy's but well on its way.  Well crap.  There was only one thing left to do and that was to separate Rachel from the flock.  It's starting to get a little difficult.  There are only so many places and kennels available, especially on New Years Day when nothing is open.  We ended up moving one of the dogs, Buster, to the big plastic kennel, which hadn't been used for a long time and was really filthy.  I got that cleaned out, oh yea!  Then we set up Buster's kennel for Rachel.  She was not quite as thrilled about her new residence as Ivy was.  She's okay, but would rather not be in there if at all possible.  Oh no sister, you are in time out for now.  Lordy, I did not expect all of this to happen.  Good thing we have had a lot of animals over the years needing different setups.

Now it's snowing like crazy outside.  I turned up the heat in the coop just a little as it's going to get so cold tonight and Ebony is missing some warm feathers.  The other two are safe in their kennels.  Hopefully everything will go peacefully tomorrow.  I am so exhausted.  I am also so glad it was a holiday and John was here to help me; pretty sure I would have keeled over.

Namaste and Aho