Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Break a Broody Hen

We have 2 pullets which are continually broody- Zoner and Bella. 
We let them both raise a batch of babies because they were so pitifully broody - Bella adopted and raised 9 Guinea keets and Zone raised 5 chicks from eggs. 
After their babies were raised both pullets immediately went broody again.  Bella is especially bad about being broody, she has been broody more than not.  Her emotions run high, she is a moody lady.

Broody hens are not good if you don't want babies.  They stop laying eggs, they sit in the nest box in the coop all day and all night, barely getting up at all.  They rarely eat or drink, they lose weight til they are skin and bones, their combs and wattles become brittle due to dehydration.  The coop is warm in the summer, the chickens are very hot sitting there in the coop all day.  Plus, the body temperature of a broody hen raises, making her even hotter.  Bella and Zoner each take a nest box all the time when they are broody, screaming if another pullet comes nearby to lay an egg.  So that makes us down 2 nest boxes, and during the mornings the nest boxes are busy places in our coop. 



Bella on top, Zone below
We decided we had to break the 2 girls from being broody.  Bella especially was getting unhealthy, she was so very thin.

We had been taking both pullets out of the nest boxes whenever we could, giving them treats out in the chicken yard.  But they always ran back to the nest box, screaming at the top of their lungs.  It was as if they thought we took them away from their babies, although they had no babies.

We installed a small fan in the coop, blowing directly onto the nest boxes.  It made the nests cooler, and all the other pullets loved the cooler breezes.  But it didn't break the broody ladies.

We read online to break a broody hen by hanging her in a wire bottom cage so that air can flow underneath.  We really don't have an area available to hang a cage like that.

So we put both Zone and Bella together into their own chicken coop which has no nest boxes, only the floor and perches to stand on.  They had food and water and a fan in their coop, they could hear the other birds outside, but they couldn't leave their coop.  They hated being confined.  A light was put in their coop, making it bright in there from 6am until until well after the sun went down.  In a few days I took both girls outside, they were so happy to be free, out of solitary confinement.  And they were broke from being broody.

So right now we have no broody hens! 
It's been a while since the nest boxes all have been empty at the same time.   

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio troilus)

Today we found this Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar (Papilio troilus).

Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars usually are found in leaf folds of spicebushes and sassafras trees during the daytime and come out to feed at night. The decorative false eyes seem to serve as a deterrent to predators.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Meeting Genny

Have you ever met one of your online blog friends in person?  Do people do that?  Is it dangerous?  

Of course it's dangerous to meet a stranger. 
All risks must be evaluated, all threats must be considered. 

But sometimes, it all just turns out wonderfully!     

The other night I met up in person with a fellow blogger, Genny, from Downeast.  I had a great time chatting and talking about everything with her.  She summed up our meeting very well in her blog - check it out here if you get a moment!

Thanks, Genny!!!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sleeping Jack

Silly Jack! 
He took a nap like this yesterday!
It doesn't look very comfy!

Still sleeping...

Jack, are you still alive?

I checked him after a few hours to make sure it didn't cut off his airway!
That cat could sleep through anything!

Come on, Guinea Girl!

For the first time in a month, I got a good Guinea hen egg!

Saturday's Guinea Girl egg

For some unknown reason, my Guinea Girl has been laying eggs with weak spots that somehow get a hole in the bottom side.  I mused about it online back on Aug 1st.  The shell is thin on the bottom and it breaks after she lays it.  She is provided plenty of oyster shells, and the rest of the egg is hard as a rock, other than the thin spot in the shell. 

But now, maybe, just maybe, this trend is going away.  Friday she laid a good egg, no thin-shell, and Saturday, too, she laid a good egg.  The egg does has a white area in the shell color, but I'm ok with that, as long as it doesn't break before it hits the frying pan!

Is it bad for me to be talking about guinea eggs and frying pans in the same sentence?

Keep up the good work, Guinea Girl!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jack and the George

Why is it that cats love to eat bugs?

We get these ugly bugs in the house at certain times of the year - they are called camel crickets.  Even though we exterminate, we can't get all the bugs out of this old house.  When I saw my first camel cricket in the house, I had no idea what it was.  I named it George, and asked Randy to please remove George from the house.  Then we got a few more Georges in the house, and we looked them up online to see what we were dealing with.

The cats love to eat Georges.  Usually they pull off their pokey back legs and eat the cricket body, leaving the legs on the floor.  Recently the cats haven't been too picky, they've been eating the cricket, legs and all.

Here's Jack going for George.

All gone! Yum!  It must be like a crunchy potato chip to the cat.  I don't know how he eats those long antenna! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And Then There Were Two

This week we sold two of our roosters, Big Red and Ricky.

Big Red

We believe they both went to good homes. 
And now we only have two remaining roosters - Leggy and Muffin.


Hopefully this gives our ladies a break!

Ladies laying

This is just a few of our pullets.  From top left clockwise, Bella (the eternally broody hen who's not laying, just sitting on nothing), Raspberry, Lucy, Zoner

(This pic was taken the day before the coop had a thorough cleaning!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chicken Saddles

We got our chicken saddles in the mail this past week!  Each saddle is made from durable denim - it can be washed when it gets dirty.  Each has the initials "RC" ~ for Razzberry Corner! 

Saddles are put on hens when their backs are torn-up by "too-friendly" roosters.  They are also called chicken aprons.  The roosters aren't supposed to like hens who are wearing saddles.  We have 3 hens who are worse than the others - Lucy, Singer and Chloe.  Lucy and Singer both have lost some feathers on their lower backs.  Chloe has lost feathers on her neck.  At night time, when all the birds are roosting, I've noticed the other hens pick on Chloe's naked neck, so it's not only the roosters who are hurting the poor girl.

I've been putting antibiotic ointment on Chloe's naked neck at nighttime, it has made a dark stain on her head.  Chloe's on the left in this picture, Singer's on the right.

When I went out to take pictures of the birds today, Lucy was preparing to lay an egg in a nest box.  She always puts pine chips on her back when she sits.  Minutes after I took this pic Lucy laid her egg.

Singer by my feet.

The chickens don't mind the chicken saddles in the least bit.  I seriously thought they would go crazy when I first strapped them on, but they didn't even care.  The straps go around each wing and snap to the saddle under the wing to hold it in place.  We take the saddles off at nighttime and put them back on in the morning. 

Brownie's New Life

Our rooster Brownie has found a new home with a hen named Shirley.
Some friends had 2 hens, Laverne and Shirley.  Sadly, a huge barred owl managed to get into their chicken pen and killed Laverne.  The owl was chased off before it could take Shirley.  So we gave them Brownie to help protect their flock as they get more chickens.  They also fixed the pen enclosure to keep out the owls.    

Brownie is a great protector and always was very attentive to the hens in our flock.  He liked to serenade them - sing little humble songs to a single hen when she was sitting out in the pen.  He always was very gentle with the hens, but a brave a fearless rooster when he needed to be.  He was the #2 rooster in our flock - second in the rooster pecking order.  He will be a good leader for their flock.

The hen Shirley seemed to love having Brownie around. She followed him everywhere. They got along great right from the beginning.  Shirley was probably just happy to have another chicken with her. She was a brave hen, she faced an enormous owl and saw her sister killed.

It's nice to know our rooster has found a good home.
Good luck, Brownie, and take care of your new flock!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chicken and Guinea Update

Life goes on with the birds here at Razzberry Corner. 
Both hens Charlotte and Betty are raising 4 chicks each.  Charlotte is an excellent mama hen; if any hen or rooster comes anywhere near her she attacks them.  Both mamas and their babies have totally been integrated into the flock already.  It's not that tough to integrate new chicks with a mama hen. 

In case you haven't been around a mama hen, they continually cluck for their chicks.  If food is being served, they cluck even more.  The chicks know their mama's clucks.  Previously, I was curious if the babies would know which mama was theirs since we have two mamas - they do.  They only listen to their own mama.  It's funny, but the mama hens don't attack each other, just everyone else.

Charlotte and three of her chicks
The hen Bella got really excited when Charlotte and Betty's chicks hatched.  Bella loved being a mama, she recently raised eight guinea keets.  As soon as she saw and heard Charlotte's and Betty's new chicks in the coop, Bella immediately went broody again.  Poor Bella.  No more chicks or keets, sorry, girl.

Bella's been sitting for weeks now on nothing, just sitting in the nest box.  We've separated her during the day and put her in her own coop with a rooster named Fred to discourage her broodiness.  It seems to be working. She gets up and walks around when it's just her and Fred.  Fred is a darling, he is the most gentle rooster we have.  But as soon as we but Bella back with the flock she immediately starts making that broody mama hen cluck and eventually tries to make a dash for the nest boxes to go sit again. 

But before Bella can go sit in the coop, her guinea keets hear her clucks, and they all dash to her side.  They remember their mama's clucks.  So whenever Bella is outside, she's surrounded by eight guineas who think their mama's calling them.  Sometimes she runs around the coop clucking in a broody hen frenzy (if you've had a broody hen you know what this frenzy is!), and all the keets run after her!   

Bella and her keets
Today was an exciting day - we got our chicken saddles in the mail!  Some of our hens have been getting torn up by the roosters.  They are getting bald spots on their backs and necks, and I've been administering antibiotic ointment on them at nighttime.  And so we ordered saddles, also called chicken aprons.  This is not a good picture of the saddle.  I'm going to have to get more pictures of them.

Chloe in her new outfit
The hens didn't really mind me putting the saddles on them.  They have straps that go under the wings to hold them on, they are made from denim so they are strong and washable.  I read about other people's chickens hating the saddles when they first got them.  Not mine.  I thought it was odd that they didn't mind them.  I guess I have really relaxed, easy-going chickens.  Or maybe they are just fashion-conscious, and like the latest look in saddles.

Here is a picture of Danni, who got a broken toe when she was young.  The toe has healed long ago, and now it's just bent, but it's fine.  She was one of the hens who didn't need a saddle, so she doesn't have a new outfit.  Sorry, Danni, no new look for you!

Danni didn't get an outfit
On a good note, Raspberry's bumblefoot has totally healed.  We no longer have to wrap her feet and treat them every night.  We check her feet every now and then to make sure it doesn't come back. 

On a closing note, here's yet another picture of my roo Leggy.  He always poses for my camera.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fire at Razzberry Corner

My worst nightmare has always been a fire in the woods. It came true Friday night - there was a fire in the woods!!

Let me back up and start at the beginning....  Thursday afternoon a HUGE thunderstorm hit our area.  It poured, rain coming down in sheets sideways.  The sky turned black in the middle of the afternoon.  The wind picked up, gusting in all directions at once.  Two thunder cells collided, causing a lot of wind and rain, lightening and thunder.  Many places were flooded from all the gushing water on the ground.  Trees starting falling left and right.  And power lines came down. 

Over a hundred thousand people lost power Thursday night in this area.  Our entire area had no power.  When we don't have power we don't have water, either, as we are on a well system.  We also lost phones.  Friday night rolls around, the electric company has been working around the clock fixing trees and power lines in our county. 

It is so very dark here at night when there's no power.  The woods are sheer blackness.  On Friday night at 11pm our power is suddenly turned back on.  We were sleeping, but got up, started the dishwasher and clothes washer.  We checked around the inside of the house, everything seemed fine.  An hour later the power goes off again.  Sometimes this happens when crews are working on power in the area, they turn it on and off several times before getting it going again.  We figured it would come back on overnight, and we went back to sleep. 

Saturday morning, still no power.  Hmmm... Wonder what happened?  Saturday morning we drive down the street, see everyone else has power but us.  We decide to climb through the jungle of woods to follow the power and phone lines that go from our house to the main road. 

Here's the phone line, running from our house into the woods.  You can see it right in the center of this picture.

Whoops - here the phone line goes through a tree branch!  Careful!
We continued following the electric and phone lines to our first telephone pole in the woods.  The pole has a transformer at the top.

Directly after that pole is where the problems were found. This picture shows the pole on the right, and power and phone lines are running straight down to the ground from the pole. We cannot see through the jungle what's down below, so we venture closer.

This picture is tough to understand without seeing it firsthand.  The power lines are running from the upper left down into the jungle.  And that dark line running through the left portion of the picture is a dangling power line.

We continue to move on through the jungle.

Then we come to this, and suddenly we are very afraid.  the power line is on the left.  On the right is a smoldering tree branch.

The tree branch was still warm from the fire.  It must have happened Friday night when the electric was turned back on for the neighborhood.  It appears lightening struck a large tree, breaking off branches.  The power lines were knocked down to the ground, but not broken, by tree branches, causing the lines to start arcing when the power was turned on.  Then the fire occurred, and the power went out again. 

When damage to power lines occurs, intense arcing and power outages usually result. The highly visible, bright arcing from a damaged power line is often referred to as a 'power flash'.  If we were looking outside at the time, we would have seen all this going on.

Another smoldering tree branch.

I cannot believe that all the brush, vines, and grasses didn't catch on fire.  I can only assume it was all still wet from the massive rains on Thursday.  Thank goodness.  But, let me say, nothing was even a little wet when I found this fire damage on Saturday morning.  The woods all were very dry. 

The woods here are very close to our house.  We are very lucky a major fire didn't break out.

When I look at this I just cannot believe the tree limb burnt, but all the leaves and other kindling on top was not set ablaze.

Here is the tree that was struck by lightening during the storm, causing the top to break off.

Now we are on the other side of the broken tree branch and fire area.  the power line runs through the trees and jungle to the next pole.

Needless to say, after feeling the warm tree limbs smoldering, I called the emergency number for the power company.  In no time flat we had three crews of electric company men out here.  They worked here all day yesterday.  They trimmed the trees in the area of the downed branches and ran new power lines to the house.  They were hard workers and worked efficiently.  I assisted by moving branches and limbs out of the way after they were cut down.  They took their trucks down into the deep and hilly woods.  I was concerned they may never get out of there! 

After the work was done last night, the electric company guys enjoyed the farm views - they saw the mama and spotted baby deer that have made a home in our backyard.  They looked at our pile of deer antlers that we've found scattered in the woods.  They checked out the chickens and guineas - many of them didn't seem to know what guineas were.  They thought it was interesting to see how friendly the chickens are.  They all wanted to touch Leggy's monster, rubbery comb when I was holding him.  They all smiled at the baby chicks.  Farm animals even make the biggest, toughest guys smile.       

The power company is supposed to come back to clear the woods around the power lines so this doesn't happen again.  That's a different crew, the guys here today were the emergency linemen.  These linemen were actually not even from this area, they were from Delaware.  They were called here to assist our local power company.  Thank you!

Hopefully that's the last fire I ever almost see!