Chicken Choosing

"If you're going to continue selling eggs" groused Spouse, "then let's get at least a few more egg layers so we don't run out here at home." Good point. The girls produce just enough medium & large-sized eggs to sell in order to keep them in feed ('tho not quite enough to cover those slack-@ssed geese & peahens). Time to get a few more chickens, woo-hoo!

Current thinking: a few more Cubalaya hens. Cubalayas don't mind the Texas summer heat, being a Cuban breed. They're smart, calm, friendly to humans, and yet don't take any guff (see blog entries on Nutmeg and Cinnamon, our pecking order enforcers). The Red Cubalayas are easiest to get, but there are other colors as well. They lay medium-sized eggs, which don't sell as well as the large, and so means a few more eggs to keep for ourselves. That's a young Cinnamon on my shoulder in the pic to the right.

We're also thinking about trying Red Sex-Links (aka Red Star). We saw these chickens at a farm doing rotational pasture-grazing, and the girls were friendly and productive. If I can get my hands on some, I'd also like to try a few Buckeyes. Their mouse-catching prowess sounds intriguing!

One chicken we don't plan on getting again: Barred Plymouth Rocks. Don't get us wrong, they're terrific hens and we love them, but as Spouse put it, "Barreds have bad luck with us". Outside of Frau, the head honcho whose pic is on the left, all other female Barreds we've tried to raise have met their Maker by getting mangled by some farm animal here. The male Barreds were such jerks that, well, they're currently residing in our freezer. Let us give them mercy and not try to raise any more.


R.I.P. Specklebutt

Spouse found Specklebutt dead in a small oak and cedar grove behind the house. Spouse believes she was a victim of a hawk attack that got interrupted, and looks like it was a (thankfully) quick kill. The dogs, geese and roosters are usually good about warning and scaring off predators, but sometimes a chicken will wander off on her own, out of sight of the safety of the group. It looks like Speckle did just that. Spouse and I have accepted the risk of an occasional predator kill in exchange for the knowing that the chickens - and their eggs - will be much healthier for the freedom to roam and forage where they will. 

I'd like to think Speckle had a good life here. Greens, table scraps and organic scratch in the morning, and free-ranging throughout the property during the day. Organic laying feed available whenever she felt like eating. Sleeping high in the cedar boughs at night. She even got to lay and raise her own offspring. Not many laying hens get the opportunity to any or all of these, though it is my wish that all may get to do so, soon.

Her remains have been buried under the big oak tree, where all our other beloved feathered critters lay.  Rest in peace, Specklebutt.

[Pic: Herself, with Specklebutt Junior, aka "Peeper" the beta roo.]


Tool Review: Lutz 15-in-One Ratcheting Screwdriver

For once, it was Not My Fault. The knobs had been falling off the kitchen cabinets since we moved in. Bad case of contractors (I assume it was contractors) over-tightening and stripping the knob threads. Tsk-tsk! Too bad, as the knobs looked like they the cost the original owners a pretty penny. They don't call cabinet knobs "kitchen jewelry" for nothing. Ah well!

With my Awesome Employee DiscountTM at the hardware/garden center I bought a boatload of new cabinet knobs, and then broke out Spouse's holiday gift, a Lutz 15-in-One Ratchet (Torque) Screwdriver.

Oh, my. The screwdriver handle holds a variety of flathead, phillips and torx bits on the handle with an easy view - no need to unscrew the handle to see what's available, or fumble through/drop the lot to find which bit you need. The switch to flip the ratchet motion from left to right is on the barrel, easily reached by your thumb while the rest of your hand is holding the handle. As a person who can sometimes be a little clumsy with tools - ahem - this made the whole removing & installing of knobs quick and very, very easy.

So the knob replacement project is almost complete. Need to go back to the store for six more knobs - forgot a cabinet. What can I say? Under-counting: that one is definitely my fault. 

[Pic top: the screwdriver. Pic bottom: the knobs. Knob on right: old & busted. Knob on left: the new hotness.]


The Peahens Have Returned!

They came back, bright & early the next morning. The peahens hung out with the chickens, and were even woo'd by Peeper the beta roo (who was chased off by Lucky, the alpha roo - guess the roos think the peahens are really big female chickens).

I still don't know where they go off to at night to sleep, but they've got 8 acres to roam and plenty of trees to perch upon, so it could be just about anywhere.


[Euterpe on the porch railing. They were munching on the dog food earlier. Yep, definitely part of the flock now. All the birds love the dog food. ]


The Peahens Have Escaped

Oh word, one of those days...

At 1.5 inches of rain this morning, found the peahen kennel tarp roof completely bowed inside from rain collection. The supports set up the night before massively failed - the rainwater was too heavy. The plan: get a bunch of 12-foot 2x4's and corrugated metal roofing, and put up a properly supported roof.

Two sets of wet, muddy clothes and rain gear later, the roof was up. I also set up some sturdier roofing for the goose enclosure while I was at it, picked up all the extraneous tarps & clamps that the roofing projects replaced, and left to get groceries for the humans and feed for the animals.

Get home, at 2.5 inches of rain later... and it looks like we had a minor squall of some sort on the property. The new roof was completely blown off the peahen kennel, and the peahens long gone. Can't say that I blame them - if the roof blew off my house, I'd split right quick as well.

Wherever they are, I hope they're okay.

[pic courtesy of facepalm.org]


Peeper is a Rooster...

...and shall soon be renamed "and Dumplings" if he doesn't quickly move past the @sshole adolescent stage. He tries to mate with the hens by force, but thankfully Lucky the top roo has learned to chase Peeper off - that is, if I'm not already there & doing so. Sometimes Lucky and I will tag-team: I'll do the initial scaring off, while Lucky runs Peeper away a few (dozen) yards.

Peeper also has an unfortunate preference for the Cubalaya hens, who not only have not returned the preference, but will fight him tooth and nail. Small but mighty, Cinnamon & Nutmeg are the pecking order enforcers of the hen flock, and brook nonsense from no one. Including Peeper. Can't fault him for his good taste, however.

[pic left: Peeper getting ready to crow. pic right: Nutmeg, not amused.]


Miss Cecily is a Very Special Goose

It's been a couple of weeks of goose trauma around here. Miss Cecily, who had been having problems keeping her wings high on her back, appeared to be getting much worse - sometimes even dragging her wings on the ground. Our primary vet had no idea what the problem could be, so put her on prednisone to help ease any pain or inflammation there might be. As Miss Cecily worsened, a friend at work encouraged me to get a second opinion. I took her to a bird hospital in Austin, where the vet there has been working with our primary vet. With testing, she has found out the following:

1. Miss Cecily has a slow pulse.
2. Miss Cecily probably has arthritis, and
3. Miss Cecily looks like she has testes. Yep, she's intersexed.

We knew she was a very special goose, but wow! [Auntie Karen asked if we're going to let Miss Cecily choose whatever clothes she wants for school. But of course!]

Cecily was stepped down off the prednisone, and given a course of antibiotics. She seemed to be improving until she was completely off both the steroids and the antibiotics. Her wings started drooping again, and she started having trouble getting up. Interestingly, this coincided with a cold snap. Then one morning I found her chilled and shivering - she had gotten stuck in one of the kiddie pools, and couldn't get out. Got her out of the pool, dried, and onto a heating pad & under a heat lamp. Called the vet hospital, and was told to bring her in right away. They got her temperature back up, and ordered another round of antibiotics (as steroids can supress the immune system, and she may have had an infection). It took Cecily a few days to get her strength back, but she still had trouble getting up from a sitting position.

Recently found a homeopathic remedy that matches her symptoms (Rhus Tox. for those who also use homeopathy for their pets). I've started her on a course, and it seems to be helping. She's now starting to fight me when I try to pick her up or give her the remedy, which is an excellent sign. Just to be on the safe side, however, she has an appointment with a homeopathic vet this Wednesday. I'm hoping we can find a way to help her have an enjoyable life. Yes, I love this sweet little goose. I'm looking forward to having her become as healthy and cranky as the rest of the gaggle.

Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had...